Monday, May 2, 2011

A Catholics response to Osama bin Laden's death

As I watch the media unfold about Osama bin Laden’s death, I realize there are conflicting emotions inside of me. Certainly, I want to avoid any polemics over whether or not it was right to kill Osama bin Laden. I also want to avoid critiquing the vague and ambiguous terms in president Obama’s speech: Justice and Freedom. I want to extend my deep gratitude for all of the soldiers who are fighting for our freedom-especially Michael Lorenz and Mario Perez. One last note, I did not lose any loved ones because of Osama, therefore, I have a great deal of difficulty even feeling like I have a right to talk about this subject.

I'm not exactly happy or excited that bin Laden is dead. My emotions are similar to what I feel after a very unpleasant task is done: a sort of relief. I am feeling uneasy about all of the celebration and rejoicing going on. For example, when I was walking back to my dorm room, I heard the jeers and cheers of my fellow college peers rejoicing at his death, “Eat that bin Laden.”It was hard for me to join in that triumphant and euphoric praise. For me, there was something disturbing about celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday (the tender compassion of God) and celebrating the death of a human being. For Catholics, I think it is important to remember that Divine Mercy Sunday is a testament of God’s tremendous love and mercy for all of humanity. Without a doubt, Osama committed much evil. He cultivated a society of hatred, massacred innocent people, and caused one of the deepest and darkest wounds in American history- 9/11. On the other hand, as Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican Spokesman: “Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace.” I believe as Christians, we must continue to foster a spirit of reflection and consideration.

Moreover, I am afraid this event will turn Catholic Americans to American Catholics. I am afraid this event will spawn a “you deserved it “or an “eye for an eye-tooth for a tooth” mentality. Simply put, such a spirit of rancorous and bitterness is not Catholic. We belong to a loving God that extends mercy to all of humanity. We pledge allegiance to a higher authority and a much greater Kingdom-Jesus Christ! I think it is important to remember that being a Christian is our only nationality, language and culture. At the end of the day, it is the only that thing that matters!

Thus, it’s interesting that Bin Laden was killed on Divine Mercy Sunday. Was this a way of God challenging Catholics to remain in a spirit of repentance and mercy? As Michael Denton said, “God’s mercy and love has no exceptions; as Christians our mercy and love are to have no exceptions”. Hence, Jesus told St. Faustina, “Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy (Diary of St. Faustina, 1146).”Let us pray that we may given the grace to continue to promote the message of peace and life to all nations. Let us fellow Blessed John Paul II when he forgave his assassin. Let us also pray that bin Laden accepted the mercy of God at the time of his death. Besides we pray for people like him in our daily Rosary, “Oh my Jesus forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all of those to heaven, especially for those in most need of thy mercy.”


  1. I came across this on the internet and I commend you for your words. I've seen a range of opinions about Osama's death and I can't help but stand next to you on the spectrum. I too have not been personally affected by the attacks in September but I can't help but feel for those families and understand their mindset. But I also feel for those who fight for peace. We must not ridicule each other but find a way to create peace for what has happened. We must find a way to "pray for those who need Thy mercy", whether enemy or friend.

    Great job again. I will be sure to pass along this post.

  2. Thank you for this. Wonderfully written with honesty and grace. You've captured perfectly the way that Catholics in particular are expected to react to such an event.

  3. Ryan -

    I share your ambivalence about last night's news. Surely it is a good thing that a mass murderer of innocents, who was likely plotting more violence, has been stopped. But however necessary and just (and I believe this action fits both categories according to the Church's conditions) no act of war is ever something to be reveled in.

    But more than anything, I appreciate your humility towards those who lost loved ones on 9-11, and by extension, to those who live in much greater threat of future terrorist attacks (in NY and DC). Strong emotions of grief, righteous anger, and legitimate fear had important roles in last night's displays of celebration. In humility, they deserve a fair hearing.

    Sadly, there has been a lack of such humility today even from those Catholics who claim a desire to teach last night's celebrants about Divine Mercy! How will we teach anyone about Divine Mercy by denouncing them?

    Better to take the approach implicit in the tone of this post: in humility and compassion, seek to appreciate the very real grief, anger, and fear that gave rise to last night's celebrations, and THEN and only then, INVITE others to experience the REAL answer to their grief, anger, and fear in the Risen One, and in His Divine Mercy.

    That is the only approach that will bear any fruit at all. Anything else, is self-righteousness of one kind or another.


  4. Fr. Stephen,

    Thank you for your response. Certainly, the faithful must embrace and be sensitive to those who shared authentic grief, righteous anger, and fear that gave rise to last night's celebrations. Unfortunately, at Notre Dame and Holy Cross College, it was hard to distinguish those "authentic" emotions.


    Ryan A.

  5. I can appreciate that. As I say, the celebrations in DC last night - which were populated mainly by students from GW - weren't necessarily carried out in a spirit that matched my own mood.

    But again, perspective is always helpful . . . . college-aged Americans have grown-up in a kind of captivity to the war on terror. Youthful exuberance at the prospect of freedom from such terror, even if imperfectly expressed, doesn't seem irrational or entirely inappropriate to me.

    I don't often find things to agree with EJ Dionne about, but he seems to get this one right:

  6. I agree, as Catholic Americans, we should rejoice at justice. We should rejoice whenever evil is defeated. However, these emotions of rejoice MUST be guided by temperance and humility—otherwise, we become just as imprudent as the “Divine Mercy” crowd. To sum it up, if we are going to boisterously celebrate, let it be at the expense of conquering evil-not the murder of another human being. I think there were valid reactions last night. I think there were a handful amount of people who rejoiced at the fact that freedom is once again- tangible, and that’s okay.

  7. WORD! Totally get what your saying.